19th May2014

9 Dangerous Female Movie Criminals

by Phil Wheat


Male criminal activity in the movies is so frequent that we barely bat an eyelid. Violence is often celebrated as a cool, almost heroic, indicator of virile masculinity. But it’s a very different story when it comes to dangerous women in films. Usually these types aren’t cool or aspirational, but just stark raving mad (Fatal Attraction sparked the phrase ‘bunny boiler’ to mean a scarily clingy lover). The new mini-series Bonnie and Clyde – out now on DVD from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment and starring Emelie Hirsch and Holly Grainger – retells the infamous story of the bank-robbing pair. In the series it’s Bonnie who’s leading the show, rather than being the weak-minded female succumbing to the demands of her criminal other half. Bonnie was a terrifying badass in her own right, and she had us pondering other women in cinema who we really wouldn’t want to catch in a foul mood.

Thelma and Louise in Thelma and Louise (1991) Dir. Ridley Scott


Best Quote: I know it’s crazy, but I just feel like I have a knack for this shit.

Two women in a convertible on the American open road, wind in their hair, rebelling against their suffocating lives of drudgery and domesticity under the domineering eyes of their sexist husbands. It’s an iconic, liberating and feminist image that praises strong female friendship. Who needs men when you’ve got your girlfriend? They’re rocking the look before the hipsters claimed it; high waisted ‘80s jeans, headscarf, Polaroid selfie. But behind the pearly white smiles and sunglasses, it’s easy to forget that these two are outlaws for a reason. A rare celebration of female criminality.

Candy, Brit, Faith and Cotty in Springbreakers (2012) Dir. Harmony Korine


Best Quote: Springbreak forever, bitches!

The casting of this darkly sexualised art-house meets commercial flick is surprising. Wholesome stars Vanessa Hudgens (High School Musical) and pop star Selena Gomez shed their innocent vibes and play students led astray by Spring Break traditions. Candy, Brit, Faith and Cotty yearn for sun and sex. They’re determined to attend Spring Break, but find themselves without funds. So what’s their solution? To rob a diner, Pulp Fiction style, obviously. While Faith (Gomez) and Cotty become unnerved by the sinister tones, Brit and Candy discover a disturbing taste for violence. They’re far tougher than rapper and weapons enthusiast Alien (a barely recognisable James Franco), who saves them from a drug charge. Don’t let their shocking pink bikinis and their pretty smiles fool you.

Annie Wilkes in Misery (1990) Dir. Rob Reiner


Best Quote: Now the time has come. I put two bullets in my gun. One for me, and one for you. Oh darling, it will be so beautiful.

Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates) is your typically terrifying madwoman. A deranged ex-nurse with an ambition to bring her favourite literary romance heroine back from the dead, she holds her favourite author captive (James Caan) and forces him to change his decision to kill off her much loved character, Misery Chastain. She is also impassioned by the ancient art of ‘hobbling’. The most iconic part of the film involves author Paul Sheldon’s ankles, a wooden plank and a hammer. It’s up for debate whether this is quite as bad as in the Stephen King source novel though, when she slices off his feet and burns the stubs with a torch.

Alex Forrest in Fatal Attraction (1987) Dir. Adrian Lyne


Best Quote: Bring the dog, I love animals. I’m a great cook.

The moment when the poor bunny gets boiled has been parodied in many a TV show, and the term ‘bunny boiler’ has taken on a meaning of its own, now referring to an obsessive rejected lover. Alex Forrest (Glen Close) is the infamous extra-marital mistress. Initially, she hides her delicate mental state expertly well. When she begins flirting with married Dan Gallagher (Michael Douglas) she’s a confident, self-assured publishing editor. An elevator and kitchen-sink encounter later she’s gushing about their undying love and their bogus future child. A moral lesson, perhaps?

Alieen Wuronos in Monster (2003) Dir. Patty Jenkins


Best Quote: I’m not a bad person. I’m a real good person.

Aileen Wuornos murdered six men between 1989 and 1990, and by her own confession, landed on death row. Charlize Theron here gave the knockout performance of her career in this snapshot into Wurono’s life. Aileen was a prostitute who worked by the side of the road, and rather like Scarlett Johansson in the recent Under The Skin, murdered them when they expected sex. Her dubious claim was that each murder was out of self-defence. Films about female serial killers really are few and far between, which sets this one out on its own as a fascinating and disturbing work.

Bonnie in Bonnie and Clyde (1967) Dir. Arthur Penn


Best Quote: We rob banks!

Probably the most enviably fashionable female killer in history, Bonnie is played here by Faye Dunaway looking fabulous, and of course recently revived by Holliday Grainger. But let’s not forget that, Bonnie, one half of the notorious Bonnie and Clyde duo, was part of the pair that supposedly killed as many as 9 police officers, as well as many other civilians. Bonnie died young, aged just 23, by brutal police gunfire. Well-known for robbery, murder and general criminality in the ‘Public Enemy Era’ of the early 1930’s. Bonnie and her beret will be remembered for decades to come.

Tina in Sightseers (2012) Dir. Ben Wheatley


Best Quote: You shouldn’t do things like that Chris. It could have ruined the holiday.

This wonderfully bizarre and quintessentially British blacker-than-black comedy is like a Mike Leigh film with added gore. Tina (Alice Lowe) is an isolated woman who lives with her strange, clingy mother. When she meets Chris (Steve Oram), she decides to liberate herself by joining him on a romantic caravanning tour of England. This turns into a very unglamorous murdering spree interspersed with visits to the pencil museum and other strange tourist attractions that could only exist in the UK. Quickly coming around to Chris’ unique passion for killing, she soon shares his interest, with a competitive streak.

Catherine Tramell in Basic Instinct (1992 Dir. Paul Verhoeven)


Best Quote: You know I don’t like to wear any underwear, don’t you, Nick?

Sharon Stone plays a highly sexualised sociopath in this erotic crime thriller that – although left critics skeptical – ultimately became one of the great money-making classics of the ‘90s. Catherine Tramell is a blonde, sophisticated ice-maiden and wonderfully deceitful mystery novel writer who becomes a murder suspect when a man is killed in the way her book describes; mid sex, with an ice pick. Her cunning weapon is to distract and entice the easily swayed policemen who interview her; we all know the part where, during an interrogation, she seductively smokes a cigarette and crosses her legs to reveal the lack of underwear underneath. The real crime though was the fact this was commissioned for a dire sequel.

Bonnie and Clyde is out now on DVD


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